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Connected embedded systems: Japan takes own IoT path

Posted: 24 Nov 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT? Internet of Things? embedded? wireless network? ZigBee?

Japan hardly ever comes to mind when the topic of Internet of Things (IoT) is put forth on the table. In contrast, Germany has Industry 4.0. The U.S. is making strides with an Industrial Internet Consortium. So, what can Japan contribute to the fast-growing world of IoT?

That was the gist of a keynote speech by Ken Sakamura, creator of Japan's RTOS, TRON, at the Embedded Technology 2015/Internet of Things Technology 2015 Conference. Sakamura, professor at the University of Tokyo, was outspokenly disappointed with the complete lack of leadership on IoT from the Japanese embedded systems design community.

Indeed, Japan has sat on the sidelines watching the rest of the world define IoT standards. Talk about missed opportunity.

However, a host of embedded systems, ranging from printers to cameras and automotive, are still designed in Japan. And they are getting connected, more and more.

Japanese engineers see embedded technology as their domain, and they take pride in innovating the necessary parts and components, including software, to advance such embedded systems and connect them to the Internet.

TRON creator calls on Japan to prioritise IoT
For a country that has enjoyed being one of the leaders in technology, Japan has, for the most part, taken the back seat in terms of developing game-changing technologies in the recent years. Now, during his keynote speech at the Embedded/IoT Technology conference, Ken Sakamura, creator of TRON, criticised Japanese embedded systems designers for their inability to lead the IoT on the global arena.

Some of their efforts were on full display at the Embedded Technology 2015/IoT Technology 2015. Several gems demonstrated on the show floor include: Lapis Semiconductor's multiple sensors integrated in one chip, Mitsubishi's high-frequency power supply, NEC's ultra-low-power wake-up module for on-demand wireless networks, and Japan's iTRON now running side by side with Linux on multi-core processors.

Other notable exhibitors included Ubiquitous, an IoT software platform company, and Socionext, an SoC joint venture between Fujitsu's system LSI design/development division and that of Panasonic, which has been in stealth mode but came to Embedded Technology 2015.

In the following pages, we introduce several examples of what stood out at this year's Embedded Technology show.

Embedded Technology 2015/IoT Technology 2015

The show floor at Embedded Technology 2015/IoT Technology 2015

Low-power wake-up module

Wake-up module

Wake-up module from NEC

An IoT end node device, even in standby mode, could consume enough power to require battery replacement every few months. That wouldn't be convenient for uses like buried soil sensors scattered over a wide area, said a representative at the NEC booth.

NEC developed a new wake-up module that stays awake at 1mW, ready to detect and receive wireless LAN signals on 2.4GHz. (To put this in context, a wireless LAN module consumes 1W, Zigbee at 60mW and Bluetooth at 72mW, according to NEC's own research.)

Once it receives wireless LAN signals, the miniature module, measuring 29mm x 20mm and 3.5mm, sends out signals to other end-node devices in the network so that it can turn them on. The wake-up module is useful for on-demand wireless networks, according to NEC.

Tractor equipped with IoT gateway

Tractor equipped with IoT gateway

A tractor, equipped with IoT gateway, can drive by on the field, trigger the wake-up module, which then turns on IoT sensor devices in the same network, so that the tractor can collect data. Similar on-demand wireless networks can be set up on factory floors so that IoT devices can autonomously form an ad-hoc, multi-hop network on the spot.

High-frequency power supply

Mitsubishi's rotary wireless power transmitter/receiver system

Mitsubishi's rotary wireless power transmitter/receiver system. A high-frequency converter and an antenna are integrated as a single module, which is used inside both transmitter and receiver sides.

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